XCOM 2 Enemy Analysis: Chosen Weaknesses

 
Weaknesses are the first half of replayability-focused randomization on the Chosen, and overall the simpler half, hence part of why I'm covering them first.

Each Chosen gets exactly two Weaknesses, decided at the start of a run. (That is, saving before you encounter your first Chosen and reloading is not a way to savescum Weakness generation; you have to trash the run and start fresh if you're that unhappy with Weakness distribution) These Weaknesses are partially randomized, but with several rules in place.

First of all, no duplicate Weaknesses: not just in the intuitive sense of Chosen not being allowed to double up on a single Weakness, but in the more interesting sense that if one Chosen has a given Weakness, that means the others cannot have that Weakness.

Second, the Weaknesses are divided into 'Adversary' and 'non-Adversary' Weaknesses: a Chosen has exactly one Adversary Weakness, and one non-Adversary Weakness.

Third, the Adversary Weaknesses are tied up in the strategic layer, as I've alluded to in prior posts: whichever Chosen has the Reapers as their Adversary will have the Reapers be the ones whose Covert Ops you use to Hunt that Chosen, and thus Hunting that Chosen is how you get additional Resistance Order slots out of the Reapers.

Fourth, the Chosen you first fight will always be the one who has the Adversary Weakness to your starting Resistance faction. That is, if you start out buddied up with the Templar, the Chosen that controls your starting territory and the Blacksite's territory will have Templar as their Adversary, whereas if you start out as friends to Skirmishers, your first Chosen will have Skirmishers as their Adversary.

Taken altogether, you can make some predictions from fairly early on. Among other points, once you're in contact with two Chosen, you already know who the Adversary of the third Chosen is, since there's only one option left.

There's technically one more rule, but I'll be touching on that when we get to Strengths.

Also, one nice thing the game does is that when a Chosen spawns into a mission, you get a summary of their Weaknesses -and Strengths- that pauses the game until clicked through. It also generates a button using a variation on the Chosen symbol in the upper-right to let you recheck these anytime. Furthermore, you can even check Strengths and Weaknesses at the strategic layer -once you're in contact with your first Chosen, a button will appear up top you can click into for summaries of the Chosen, including their Strengths and Weaknesses.

This is all very much a nice touch from a series that has historically been bad about obscuring key information or expecting you to remember it on your own after one mention. The only complaint I have is the oversight I've previously mentioned with the Made Whole Dark Event -this correctly hides Chosen Weaknesses at the strategic layer summary, but not from the tactical layer summary, which is backwards given you can check currently-active Dark Events at the strategic layer and not the tactical layer. Even this complaint is almost certainly an accident that would've been corrected if the game had gotten more polish or better patch support. (Surprisingly, I've yet to see a mod fix this)

Anyway, on to specific Weaknesses, starting with the Adversary Weaknesses.

Adversary: Reaper
Reapers do 50% more damage to this Chosen, rounded down, with all attacks.

Note that this includes that Claymores will do 50% more damage, regardless of which soldier actually triggers the Claymore detonation. Conversely, Remote Start inexplicably doesn't get boosted.

More generally, the source soldier matters to Adversary Weaknesses; it doesn't have to be shooting in particular or something. A Tactical Rigging Reaper tossing a regular grenade will also get bonus damage against the Chosen weak to Reapers, for example. As far as I'm aware, Remote Start is the only example of 'it came from the right class, but it still doesn't get the damage boost'. Even damage over time effects can trigger it! (Though I think this is unreliable and am unsure it's actually intended behavior)

This includes an amazing edge-case: the Resistance Order Feedback can, in fact, trigger a Weakness bonus (ie doing 6 damage) against the Warlock if he targets a Resistance soldier he's weak to with one of his psionic abilities. This will rarely crop up (Among other points, a successful Mind Control won't trigger Feedback), but it's cool that it's a thing.

As for Adversary: Reaper in specific, it's... probably the most uneven and difficulty-dependent Weakness. On the one hand, it's generally undesirable to have your Reaper taking shots that risk breaking Shadow, and the Vektor Rifle's damage is poor; if you're in a situation where you can only exploit this Weakness with regular flanking shots, it's questionable whether it's worth doing outside the finishing shot in particular. On the other hand, Reapers have multiple burst-damage tools: say your Reaper holds onto their Claymore, and things work out that the Assassin happens to end a turn visible and in Claymore-tossing range. (Or some other squad member reveals her before you move your Reaper, whatever) In that case, the Reaper can toss the Claymore, somebody else can detonate it, and then the Reaper can take a shot on the probably-Coverless Assassin: on Regular, the first-tier Assassin only has 15 HP, with the Claymore ripping off 7 of it, and a non-crit Vektor Rifle shot taking out 4 or 6 HP; either way, a single other soldier following up can easily finish her at that point. Or the Reaper can crit and high-roll, in which case they've already killed her, as that's 10 damage right there.

If you're fond of Claymores and like to take Claymore-boosting skills, this only gets more striking as you advance. Shrapnel Claymores will do 12 damage to a Chosen weak to Reapers; even maxed-out Legendary Chosen only hover around 60 HP! Two Shrapnel Claymores is ripping off more than a third of their maximum possible health!

And of course in the long haul Banish gives you the ability to spring a bunch of damage on them all at once. A Temnotic Rifle-backed Banish with Blood Trail and a Superior Expanded Magazine will be six hits of 7 or 9 damage each, making for a minimum of 42 damage and a maximum of 54 damage. If your Reaper has Tactical Rigging, equipping Venom Rounds or Dragon Rounds will shoot them up to 9 minimum and 10 maximum, or maybe you actually got to Shadow Lance, whatever, either way that's a minimum of 54 damage and a maximum of 60. Not enough to kill a maxed-out Legendary Chosen all by itself, but below that? They're gone. Which can really help when assaulting a Chosen Stronghold, leaving the rest of the squad ready to attack the Chosen's sarcophagus.

Conversely, in the early game of a Legendary run, the Assassin starts out with 27 HP and a point of Armor: even doing 17 damage to her, while a lot, is not Problem Solved, and now you've risked exposing your (frail, valuable) Reaper to her.

This also depends on Strengths. A Chosen weak to Reapers but with Blast Shield will still be susceptible to Banish shenanigans, but has completely defanged the Claymore abuse, and so for most of the game that vulnerability to Reapers is... not helpful.

It can also spike thanks to other Weaknesses, but we'll get there.

So yeah, potentially very exploitable, potentially nearly irrelevant. One of the better examples of how, while the Strengths+Weaknesses system is an incredibly cool idea, it could've used some more refinements -I don't think the devs intended for this much swinginess to the mechanic.

Adversary: Skirmisher
Skirmishers do 50% more damage to this Chosen, rounded down, with all attacks.

Being vulnerable to Skirmishers is overall the most stable of the Adversary Weaknesses. Skirmishers aren't reliant on any tools a Strength can negate and/or horribly punish, nor do they especially excel at any quality another Weakness can significantly exacerbate. (Okay, there's Bewildered, but still, it's not too dramatic) They can leverage Weakness stacking pretty reliably, mind, but generally only to a bit of a limited extent. Among other points, though Chosen have a humanoid body plan, Justice doesn't work on them.

Well, stable from the perspective of the Strengths and Weaknesses system. Within a battle, it's the least stable Weakness, especially very early on, as a Skirmisher is rarely going to be able to arrange two highly accurate shots on the Chosen without support from other soldiers, or cooperative terrain, or something of the sort, and unlike the other Resistance classes they don't start with any sure-hit tools unless one counts the Frag Grenade their Item slot lets them carry. So a Skirmisher start will make your very first Chosen fight unusually RNG-influenced, relative to other starts.

Anyway, this isn't to suggest that the Chosen's Strengths and other Weakness don't matter, but rather that Skirmishers are flexible enough they can generally adapt to a Chosen's set.

Also, something I should note about damage-boosting Weaknesses in general is that the game rolls a damage number and then modifies it, where many games with percentile modifiers and damage randomization apply all modifiers and then randomize at the end. This can result in odd ranges you might not intuitively expect, and that break the rules for how XCOM 2 otherwise handles damage randomization. For example, a Conventional-tier Bullpup does 3-4 damage; when exploiting this Weakness, the Bullpup will (Ignoring crits for a second) do either 4 damage or 6, with no possibility of doing 5 damage. (Because half of 3 is 1.5, which the game rounds down to 1 before adding it) Normally in XCOM 2 a damage range will have no 'gaps', where every whole number between the minimum damage and the maximum damage is a possible value. (eg min 3, max 5, as on the Assault Rifle, implies 4 damage is a possibility) Normally only crits allow a weapon to 'skip' numbers, where eg a Shadow Lance can do 5, 6, 10, or 11 damage, but not any of 7, 8, or 9.

On the note of crits, they get added to the damage total before the game applies the percentile modifier. For example, a Kal-7 Bullpup rolling low but critting for +1 damage has the same result as rolling high without a crit: a 4 getting boosted into being a 6. This is good, minimizing the impact of the game rounding down, and is a pleasant surprise given how often games that have this kind of rounding behavior are a lot more aggressive about doing the rounding at every step, sometimes with quite problematic results.

Adversary: Templar
Templar do 50% more damage to this Chosen, rounded down, with all attacks

A vulnerability to Templar is probably the swingiest Adversary Weakness when it comes to the Strengths and Weaknesses system, as Templar are mostly just going to Rend a lot. This thus stacks readily with Brittle, but is also almost neutered by Immune to Melee -a Templar can still fire their Autopistol and use eg Volt, of course, but their best offense is Rending.

Mind, it's only those two that really have a noticeable impact, but they have a big impact.

Adversary: Templar is also impacted pretty consistently by which Chosen gets it. On the Assassin, it's generally a very helpful Weakness, since Templar are one of the more reliable options for chasing her around corners in the first place. On the Warlock it's a bit more unstable, because the Warlock is perfectly happy to sit still in a High Cover high ground position without moving for multiple turns in a row, potentially completely out of your Templar's ability to reach... but most of the time he'll just be hanging out behind High Cover, and so a Templar is actually helpful regardless, making the Weakness quite helpful. The Hunter having this Weakness tends to be a bit of a pain, as the Hunter actually tries to keep his distance (When his Grapple access isn't confusing his AI), and so is unusually prone to simply being out of reach -and with his Grapple access, it's entirely possible your Templar will get close, ready to Rend next turn, and then the Hunter zips off to a new location out of the Templar's reach.

When these assorted factors aren't getting involved, though, Weakness: Templar is the most consistently exploitable Weakness simply because Rend doesn't miss and high-Focus Templar are very mobile, making it difficult for even the Assassin to get out of their reach. As Chosen don't teleport in until you've been revealed and always have access to summons, Templar will also usually get the opportunity to build Focus one way or another, making their technically-poor base damage deceptive.

I should also explicitly point out that, like crit damage, Focus damage is added before the game applies the Weakness damage boost, thankfully.

Also, something to keep in mind is that while Chosen can't be Disoriented or Stunned, they can be knocked back by Rend! It's worth considering defaulting to having your Templar Rend Chosen first in general, particularly if they're in High Cover, and angling the attack so it will knock them into the open if the knockback triggers. It won't happen very often, but when it does it can dramatically help.

Conversely, it should be pointed out that none of the Chosen -not even the Warlock- is considered to be a psionic enemy for the purposes of Volt and Ionic Storm, in spite of all the narrative elements informing you that they're filled with psionic energy and so on. It can still be worth considering using them in the right situation, but if your run has the Warlock weak to Templar, sorry, a max-Focus Ionic Storm off Celestial Gauntlets won't do 24-36 damage to the Warlock, it'll do 13-22.

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Moving on to the non-Adversary Weaknesses... all four of them.

The game really needed a few more Weaknesses...

Groundling
Soldiers get an additional +10 accuracy when they have high ground over the Chosen, above and beyond the usual +20.

By far the most underwhelming Weakness for a Chosen to get, with only Brittle being arguably less helpful if it happens to roll alongside Immune To Melee. And even that is debatable.

It doesn't help that every Chosen tends to undermine its relevancy through their behavior. The Assassin rarely takes high ground, but she also prefers to go ducking somewhere out of sight after a melee strike, and it's pretty rare to be able to both pursue her and set up a high ground shot simply because of how fast she is. The Warlock has a fairly strong preference for taking high ground where possible, and will rarely leave it once he's there. The Hunter is hilariously prone to abandoning high ground, but he can move very unpredictably and if he takes a normal shot it's not unusual for it to be that he takes high ground and then fires.

Not even touching on how some maps make it basically impossible to get high ground.

On the plus side, each Chosen's final Stronghold confrontation includes high ground, and in these confrontations it's usually pretty easy to get high ground shots on them. Too bad the bonus is so minor it basically doesn't matter. It rally needed to be at least +20 Aim, if it was going to be an Aim bonus at all.

I don't get why this isn't a damage bonus for firing from high ground. This is the only Weakness that doesn't provide a damage bonus when leveraged, even when counting cut Weaknesses! It's bizarre that it's an exception -it's not like it's a concept that doesn't lend itself to being a damage modifier.

In practice, a Chosen rolling Groundling effectively makes them tougher than average, lowering your maximum possible damage output compared to... any other Weakness.

Bewildered
When injured multiple times in a single turn, this Chosen will take an additional 3 damage from each attack starting from the third.

Surprisingly, even damage over time effects can trigger Bewildered; that is, if you shoot a Bewildered Chosen twice, one of which sets it on fire, when the burn damage hits it can get a bonus 3 damage.

I say 'can' because the engine is pretty weird and inconsistent about damage over time. I suspect the timing or form of delivery matters somehow, but in any event I've sometimes had Bewildered apply to damage over time and sometimes not, so don't count on it. Just be aware that stacking damage over time has potential to have above-average payoff against Bewildered Chosen.

Actually, in general Bewildered is inconsistent. I've also had cases where eg I dropped a Claymore, blew it up with a grenade that caught the Chosen in its radius, and then shot them successfully, and even though that was three separate hits it didn't trigger Bewildered.

Similarly, while I list 3 damage above, it actually varies. Pistols will get only +2 damage, for example. I'm not sure what the exact rules are, as it's clearly not a simple percentage. The vast majority of my testing gets +3, including, again, damage over time effects that only do 1-3 damage per tick. So be aware you might get slightly different numbers from expected -fortunately, XCOM 2 is sufficiently heavy on RNG being in damage that you shouldn't be plotting turns to the exact hit point anyway, so this isn't a problem in real play, no matter how much it annoys me from the perspective of trying to make these posts thorough.

Shell-shocked
This Chosen takes double damage from explosives of any sort.

Note that while Rocket Launchers and Blaster Launchers constitute explosives, other Heavy Weapons do not.

Also note that environmental explosives do count. Woe to the Shell-Shocked Chosen foolish enough to sidle up to a car for Cover! This includes Remote Start, which makes intuitive sense.

Shell-Shocked is a fantastic Weakness to be able to pick on. Among other points, it modifies damage before Armor, and so suddenly tossing a grenade to Shred Armor can be doing real damage. More generally, explosives are always 100% reliable and generally have solid-to-amazing damage; thus, Strengths like Low Profile, Kinetic Plating, and Revenge can be ducked around while doing hilarious damage. Further, it stacks with Resistance class Weaknesses, and every Resistance class has access to explosives, even Reapers. (Via Claymores, and less reliably Remote Start) Depending on your strategy and luck with eg Experimental Grenade and Powered Heavy Weapon, it's entirely possible to end up with hilariously reliable ability to simply vaporize Chosen without a chance for them to do anything.

It's particularly easy to leverage in the early game; there's basically no chance you're not carrying explosives due to a lack of alternatives, and there's not exactly a glut of alternative worthy targets to throw them at. Later in the game, you might hurl an Acid Bomb at a Chosen and then regret it when a Sectopod rounds a corner. Early on, you have to pretty specifically want to smash Cover -which for one thing means you're unlikely to hurl any explosives before you know the Chosen weak to explosives is around, and can plan accordingly.

Though even later when other targets readily justify explosives, one advantage of Shell-Shocked is that you may well take advantage of it entirely incidentally while eg firing a Rocket into a crowd that includes the Chosen. So the whole 'do I use the explosive on them, or on some other enemies?' dynamic doesn't necessarily exist as a hard question at all in any given fight.

The one relatively substantial issue with exploiting it as a Weakness is that most classes are poor at delivering most explosives to a target and all Chosen tend to keep their distance from your squad. Early in a run, you may find yourself fighting a Chosen with nobody suited to closing enough to catch them with an explosive, such as if no Grenadier is ready for the first Chosen's first Retaliation mission appearance.

Still, once you're solidly into the midgame, able to relatively reliably field Grenadiers and with Heavy Weapons access, it's a very reliable Weakness to exploit, with a very dramatic effect. It's clear the devs were thinking in terms of 'you have a limited supply of explosives, so the bonus needs to be bigger relative to other Weaknesses', but this feels a bit far in practice. I'm okay with the result overall, but I suspect the devs overshot their intentions.

Also, note that damage Weaknesses stack multiplicatively. A Claymore detonating on a Chosen weak to Reapers and explosives will result in 14 damage; that's not quite what one would expect of doubling 5 and boosting by 50% the resulting 10, which should result in 15, but if you instead boost 5 by 50%, getting 7.5, then round down to get 7, then double... there you go, 14.

Anyway, since Weaknesses stack multiplicatively, if you can pick on two damage Weaknesses simultaneously, you should endeavor to do so, as you're getting better damage increases than if pick on each weakness separately. That is, a Reaper throwing 2 Claymores is 28 damage. Having a soldier toss an Incendiary Bomb that rolls 5 damage while the Reaper fires a Vektor Rifle that rolls for 5 damage will result in 17 damage, even though in both cases the pre-Weakness damage was two hits of 5 damage.


Brittle
This Chosen takes 50% more damage from attacks occurring from within 4 tiles of the Chosen.

Frustratingly, the damage prediction will often fail to reflect Brittle's effect, even if the soldier is actually currently standing within the Brittle trigger range. It's especially reliable about not being predicted when using eg melee attacks, where the attacker is starting outside the Brittle zone but will actually attack from within the Brittle zone.

Also, a bizarre mechanics point: Brittle will trigger on Burn, Poison, and Acid damage, so long as the originator of the effect is still in the Brittle radius when the Alien Activity turn rolls around and enemies have damage over time trigger. Surprisingly, this rounds up, ensuring that those will do a minimum of 2 damage per trigger. As such, Dragon Rounds and Venom Rounds are that little bit more effective against a Brittle Chosen if you get in their face for a Shotgun blast or whatever.

I think Feedback can trigger Brittle, too. Not 100% sure, but I once had the Warlock trigger Feedback on a Templar at point-blank while being Weak to Templar and having Brittle, and he took 9 damage, which would fit with two Weaknesses chaining their damage multiplier, but Brittle didn't do a popup and I've only had it happen the one time so it's possible I missed some confounding factor and misunderstood the situation.

In any event, Brittle is de-facto a weakness to Rangers and Templar unless the Chosen also has Immune to Melee, since melee is a reliable way to leverage Brittle. Skirmishers aren't bad at leveraging it either, especially late in a run where Reckoning can let them both leverage Brittle and reliably set up for a follow-up attack to trigger Brittle as well. Even Reapers are decent at leveraging it, since they can more readily maneuver in safety for a close-range flanking shot.

It's also nice for high-level Sharpshooters with a Pistol focus if you can get them close enough in the first place...

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Overall, I feel there needed to be either more non-Adversary Weaknesses -six or so- or that Groundling needed to be cut. 4 Weaknesses is an awkward middle ground, where there isn't actually that much variety to Weaknesses, but it's not as stable as the Adversary Weaknesses either. In conjunction with Groundling being seriously out of step with the other Weaknesses... yeah, I'd have preferred it was cut.

To be fair, 6 non-Adversary Weaknesses is a bit daunting a demand. The current list is, aside Groundling deviating, made up of damage boosts that can be achieved by any class (Even Reapers can take advantage of Shell-Shocked reliably in spite of not being guaranteed an Item slot), in any map condition, and without requiring luck or specific technologies be unlocked. They also all scale into the late game some way or another. Trying to come up with three new Weaknesses that fall inside that sensible set of restrictions without stepping on other Weaknesses' toes is genuinely difficult given how XCOM 2 has distributed your tools. Especially given the implicit assumption that any such Weaknesses would also not be otherwise design-terrible; something like 'take bonus damage when attacked through Cover' would technically fit those qualifiers, but would be flagrantly awful.

If XCOM 3 returns to anything resembling Chosen Weaknesses, hopefully the foundational design will have laid enough groundwork such a variety is more readily doable.

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Next time, we cover the inverse to Weaknesses: Chosen Strengths.

See you then.

Comments

  1. Finally! Someone actually gets around to explaining the mechanics of the Chosen weaknesses! Especially Bewildered and Brittle, I honestly had no idea how they worked and pretty much considered any situation where those weaknesses trigger as just another form of luck.

    Keep up the good work, continuing to look forward to the rest of the Chosen series!

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    1. Yeah, I still don't entirely understand Bewildered, and it took a few months to figure out Brittle's actual parameters. Not to mention I had to figure out the individual modifiers to damage, given the game doesn't actually tell you...

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